Female Beauty Matters

Mary Kassian

Mary Kassian | 06.07.11
Twitter: @MaryKassian

38 comments

Recently, several bloggers tackled a highly sensitive and debated topic—the need for women to attend to their beauty and appearance. When I published a post on what and what not to wear on my site, I came under fire for focusing on such mundane matters rather than really important stuff—like comforting the sick and war-torn.

I admit it. The topic of woman’s appearance is trivial compared to the war on the other side of the world–but given the reality of our culture, it’s a battle that hits much closer to home.

The Debate about Female Beauty

Tim Challies, a popular Christian blogger, published his thoughts on women “letting themselves go.” While he was careful to stress that “the beauty the Bible commends is the beauty of character more than a beauty of appearance,” he suggested that inner and outer beauty are actually inexorably connected, and concluded that women need to make the effort to remain beautiful to their husbands.

Another blogger, Rachel Held Evans, was disappointed by Challies’ refrain that “outer beauty reflects inner beauty” and that “a good wife will keep up appearances for her husband choosing an attractive sweater instead of the stained Mickey Mouse t-shirt.” She argued that

The Bible never demands that women be beautiful nor does it justify a man’s infidelity because his wife “let herself go.” If anything, it presents a fairly consistent picture of beauty as a passing pleasure. Challies and company are free to teach that women should stay beautiful for their husbands, but I wish they would stop referring to this teaching as “biblical” when it is not.

The discussion surrounding this issue was intense. Challies’ and Evans’ posts attracted several hundred comments. When Mark Driscoll mentioned my “What Not to Wear” post on twitter, Girls Gone Wise got flooded with so many visits that it temporarily downed the site. Incidentally, Driscoll took a whole lot of flak, a few years ago, when he offered to take one for the guys, by decrying pastors' wives for “letting themselves go.”

A Sensitive Issue for both Sexes

Woman’s appearance is a sensitive issue, because from a man’s perspective, a wife’s effort to be beautiful for her husband speaks of her care and respect for him, and communicates her desire to be sexually attractive and available for him. Making a reasonable effort to care for and beautify herself is a demonstration of her devotion. In his view, a lack of effort in this regard demonstrates a lack of concern for him. Bottom line–whether we like it our not, it’s important to our guys. Challies points out:

In all of these things, a woman ought to understand (and believe) that what a man finds (or ought to find) beautiful in his wife is more about care and respect and effort and availability than it is about figure and proportion. In too many cases a woman who lets herself go is simply symbolizing that she has let her marriage go. Conversely, care for herself shows her care for her husband, respect for him, love for him.

It’s even a touchier subject for women, because as Evans points out, “many are so burdened by the impossible standards imposed by our culture that they feel as though their efforts will never be enough.” Like Evans, I have never in my life met a woman who did not want to be beautiful for her husband.

When it comes to beauty, women react against the burden of expectation, the fear that they will fall short of the desired standard, the inevitability of decay, and the resentment that the script is different for men than women. A woman wants to be loved and accepted as she is. From a wife’s perspective, a husband’s attraction to/desire for beauty can magnify her feelings of personal inadequacy and insecurity, and she may fear that his love/acceptance depends on her ability to measure up.

Approaching the Discussion from a Different Angle

So who is right—Challies or Evans? Was Driscoll entirely off base in suggesting that it might negatively affect a pastor if his wife lets herself go? Or were his critics misguided in insisting that a woman’s lack of attention to her appearance should in no way impact her husband’s propensity to stray?

The stalemate in the discussion often boils down to the fact that women resent the fact that men are so attracted to beauty, while men resent the fact that women don’t make the effort to properly attend to it. So how do we resolve the impasse? In my opinion, we can’t hope to make sense of the question until we view woman’s beauty and beautification through the lens of the biblical typology of gender, and the eternal, cosmic meaning of sexuality.

Beauty has a Cosmic Meaning

Psalm 45 is a song celebrating the marriage of a Hebrew king to a foreign princess. But it’s also a messianic prophecy pointing to the relationship between Christ the King and His Church-Bride. The Psalmist notes that the king “desires her beauty,” and that the princess, in turn, makes herself beautiful—“all-glorious”—for him.

Scripture uses this imagery to illustrate how we are to make ourselves beautiful for our King. The Lord wants us to clothe ourselves in fine, spotless garments of righteousness—in holy character and holy deeds (Rev. 19:7-8). He wants us to be beautiful, and through Jesus, we are! The great story of the gospel is that God gives us the opportunity to clothe ourselves in the beauty of Christ. He provides the beauty, and we don’t need to work or strive to measure up, nor do we need fear that we will fail to meet the standard.

So what does all this have to do with our discussion about female appearance? It has a great deal to do with it. We live—as C.S. Lewis coined it—in the “shadow lands.” The earthly, physical realities of our lives are but shadows—copies—of true and heavenly realities (e.g. Heb. 8:5; 9:24-25). The physical and temporal exist to point us to the spiritual and eternal. And nowhere is this more the case than in the relationship between male and female.

Human sexuality is a parable—a testimony to the character of God and to His spectacular plan of redemption through Jesus. This spiritual truth is so magnificent that God chose to put it on display permanently. Everywhere. Men were created to reflect the strength, love, and self-sacrifice of Christ. Women were created to reflect the grace and beauty of the Bride He redeemed.

I believe that men are “wired” to be attracted to beauty in women because our Heavenly Bridegroom desires the beauty of His Bride. And I believe that deep down, every woman wants to feel beautiful and desired. This is the way that God has created us as male and female—and the illustration points to something far bigger than ourselves.

Beauty is More Than a Passing Pleasure

Many scorn beauty as “a passing pleasure.” They think that the illusive, fragile, fading, temporary, and wrinkle-and-stretch-mark-prone nature of female beauty indicates that men (and women) should just “get over it” and focus on more important things.

Beauty is indeed a passing pleasure. But I think there’s a deeper meaning here that we dare not trivialize. The symbolic importance of beauty/beautification is not unlike the symbolic importance of marriage. Woman’s beauty, and all the broken, distorted ideas about it, will not so much pass, as give way—in the end—to that to which beauty points. There will be no marriage in heaven because the shadow will give way to the reality. Likewise, the illusive, fading, temporary beauty of women will one day give way to the breathtaking, spectacular, eternal beauty of the Bride of Christ.

The gospel doesn’t negate man’s desire to enjoy beauty and woman’s desire to be beautiful, but it does shift the focus of our attention beyond the symbol to that to which it points. When we consider the jaw-dropping picture painted by Scripture, it would seem that our Lord finds our desire for beauty not too strong, but too weak. We get all wrapped up with the earthly and the superficial and temporal, while the supernatural and eternal is offered us. Like an ignorant tourist who spreads out his towel under the picture of the umbrella on the sign, because he does not know that the sign points to the beach. We are far too easily pleased. (Again, a favorite C. S. Lewis thought)

Embracing Beauty

Followers of Christ know that the symbol is not even fractionally as important as the reality. But they understand that it is not totally unimportant either.

So girls, let’s give the guys a break. Let’s stop condemning them for feeling attracted to beauty and wanting us to make a reasonable and sustained effort in that department. And guys . . . give us a break. Please understand how very personal and painful this issue can be for women. It’s very difficult to stay engaged in fighting a battle we know we are destined to lose. The beauty of our youth will inevitably fade. And most of us don’t have a hope of even remotely resembling the airbrushed model on the cover of the magazine.

And let’s always remember that the whole issue of female beauty is merely a signpost. It’s reminder to all of us—male and female—that the King desires our beauty, and that we ought to carefully attend to our character, and to making ourselves spiritually beautiful for that great destination wedding on the other shore.

In my opinion, the answer to the conundrum surrounding the discussion about female beauty is not to diminish or deny its importance, but to exalt and embrace the all-surpassing beauty to which it points.

Comments

  1. Mary,
    As a nearly 50 woman (this year), this is an ever-ending battle. My husband assures me that he thinks I'm beautiful, gray, wrinkles, and all. Still, that part of me (the bride of his youth) wants to capture the illusion of the fleeting beauty that springs out at me when I gaze on old photos. I loved hearing you speak at the True Woman Conference in Chicago a few years back as you opened my eyes to the detrimental effects of the feminist movement (I am an recovered feminist). So today and each day, I do the best with God has given me. I dress and apply makeup (most days) but mostly, I want to shine for Christ. A smile, the right attitude, a caring heart, and hopefully in an external package that is pleasing but not pretentious.
    True Woman
    posted by Tammy Anderson
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 8:08 am
  2. I think that this is definitely something that is important for true Christian women. We need to make an effort to be put together and beautiful to our husbands. I'm not married yet, but even I find it hard to put on mascara just to see my boyfriend who I've been dating for a couple years. I try to think back to our first dates-where I'd spend an hour trying to look great for him. We need to meet somewhere in the middle-find that happy medium. Thanks for the reminder! Our husbands (God and our earthly Husbands) should be our priority. Who wants to see God a the gates looking like a disheveled mess? ;)
    posted by Julie in Houston
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 8:33 am
  3. Mary,
    I appreciate the post. If all of what we do is an act of worship, then how we present ourselves both inside and out ought to be the best we can bring. By God's grace may we be reflections of the depth of love He has bestowed on us.
    posted by Cecelia W.
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 9:54 am
  4. Very good article, Mary.

    Cecelia, your wise words impact me. May I please 'borrow' them? Kind Regards, Lynn E.
    posted by Lynn E
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 10:25 am
  5. Thanks for this post! I think we could compare our struggle with being beautiful with a man's struggle for being romantic. Even if he doesn't do it perfectly, we still want him to try and we appreciate the effort, right?

    But thank you so much for bringing this into perspective. We are here to bring glory to the Lord, and one day we'll see that He is all that matters.
    posted by Leanne
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 10:44 am
  6. I appreciate that this issue is being brought to light. It is so encouraging that women are being urged to regain their femininity. I love being girly in an age where women are either dressed overtly sexual or in a more masculine way.

    I have to say, however, that I am discouraged at the fact that nothing is said about the fact that men need to keep themselves looking good for their women. It is becoming an entirely feminine issue when in reality, I believe it is just as important for a man to look good for his wife as it is a wife to look good for her husband. Maybe I am an uncommon wife, but when my husband is looking his best, I am sexually attracted to him more so than when he is dressed a bit sloppy.

    I just find it unfortunate that there is nothing being said to the men on this issue.

    Still, I am so glad that women are noticing that sweat pants are not necessarily appropriate to be wearing every day!
    posted by Kelly
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 10:52 am
  7. My 2 cents: Where I live, more women in the church focus on their appearance way more than their growth in godliness. It's frustrating to see very attractive (and sometimes immodest) women at church whose character and words are, let's just say, not Christ-like. With that comes the struggle for balance I seek within me: okay, if I focus on my appearance to "beautify" myself, people will say I'm conceited and self-centered. But if I "let myself go" for godliness' sake, then I'm a scourge in men's eyes not not meeting a standard. Second, why are men never held accountable for "letting themselves go"? Honest question, guys can grow bellies after marriage, eat junk food, quit exercising, etc. and they are never chastised "biblically"? I've never heard nor read a teaching about a man letting himself go after marriage--it's always the women. Lasty, as I take care of husband, marriage, children, homeschooling and home, it comes down to what every other woman struggles with--when do I have time to "beautify" myself to that level on a daily basis? I'm doing good to eat well, sleep enough & exercise for my health. Sincere and yet brutal realities here....
    posted by Joanna
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 10:54 am
  8. I Think a man should not treat his wife like a maid while also expecting her to look like a princess.
    posted by Lisa
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 11:03 am
  9. I think most of this could be resolved if Christian men would be brought up to have regard for Godly character in themselves as well as in their wives. I think the whole conversation is worldly and a little juvenile. Why is it we always have to make exceptions for the weakness of men instead of teaching them to strengthen themselves with the word of God? It's what we women do here amongst ourselves isn't it? It's as if we want to say "oh bless their hearts, you just can't expect much from them...they're just men". This whole conversation seems to condone that very mentality of how our culture treats men as inferior jerks. We've talked about it much in this circle and yet here we are seeming to make exceptions for the fleshly, shallow behavior that the modern Christian man shares with those "in the world". The Christian man should not have the same mentality as those "outside". If we want more (righteousness) from our sons and husbands we have to expect more not less.
    We're all into living as the Proverbs 31 woman around this site. If we are doing our best to serve God and our husbands in this way and our husbands don't see the beauty in that, then it is THEIR hearts who need adjusting- not our outward appearance.
    One main problem is that many Christians will not take simple steps to remove themselves from the sinful activities of the world so obviously that's where their hearts will be.
    My final thought on this is for you to ask yourselves what Mary, the mother of Jesus, looked like? Did she have braided hair, jewels and make-up plastered to her face?
    posted by Brenda
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 11:43 am
  10. This is such a great article and so full of grace. I love it. I so agree with it and I so fall short. Thanks for the reminder.
    http://alexis-crazymomma.blogspot.com/
    posted by Alexis
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 11:44 am
  11. Paul clearly tells us in Ephesians about the mystery of marriage. That marriage does reflect Christ and his church. Marriage displays the gospel. I believe that for you to say a woman's beauty is doing the same thing is NOT backed up by scripture. Interesting opinion on your part...but not scripture as I read it. The CS Lewis idea of us living and existing making mud pies while missing a day at the sea is much more helpful when used in the context of humans not finding all satisfaction in God. We assume too little of our Creator, that somehow our greatest joy could come from something else. Your idea that those mud pies I'm living in are coming from me not desiring outer physical beauty in a way defined by the time and culture I live in is preposterous. As if I could simply cling to my desire to be desired, my desire to be beautiful and that would bring me 'the day at the sea' (i.e. true unwavering joy) is unhelpful. The KING of kings desires less of me...only him working through me. Me spending more time working on me is the exact opposite. All around unhelpful topic. Let's get the focus back on Christ our King as he is revealed in scripture.
    posted by Leigh
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 11:48 am
  12. A great biblical based book to read regarding the topic of Beauty is "Do you Think I'm Beautiful, The question every women asks" by Angela Thomas. Praying for us all...my dear sisters! 1 Thessalonians 5:17, "pray without ceasing;"
    posted by C. Drake
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 11:49 am
  13. I think that part of the hindrance to doing this is that our idea if what is beautiful can be wildly different from our husbands'. What I think makes me beautiful can take me half an hour or more to accomplish; time that would take me away from what I see as more important matters. What my husband finds beautiful may only take a few minutes every day. I think I need to spend time fixing my hair and makeup just right, while my husband might just want me to wear something clean and attractive and have my hair brushed. I know my husband thinks I look good without all the makeup and hairspray, even though I think he must be half blind to think I look attractive like that! So it comes down to: ask your husband how you can make yourself attractive for him! A godly man probably has lower expectations than you think, and asking his opinion will let him know you do desire to please him.
    posted by Christina
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 11:57 am
  14. I don't see anywhere in the Bible that says a woman reflects God or his purpose in marriage by being beautiful (I think it's really a jump to say that the church preparing itself for her bridegroom means women need to dress up physically). I think this is a trap lots of Christians fall into-- the whole idea of women and beauty and that somehow being pretty is a biblical ideal. It's just bad theology, in my opinion, and distracts us from other important spiritual pursuits.

    I think it also creates a huge double standard between men and women-- women have to try their best to be physically pleasing to their man because it's their biblical duty, but there is no similar suggestion for men. It seems like something a man who buys into this could very easily hold over his wife's head.

    Personally, I think both men and women should apply themselves to taking care of themselves physically. My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and I want to take care of it. I don't want to let myself go because I respect myself. I love my husband, and I want him to find me attractive, but I think we also need to be careful about being slaves to male approval.

    So basically, all that to say, I don't think this article is necessary or helpful at all. Be happy with who you are and how you were made, and do your best to take care of yourself because you respect yourself and know that you are an image-bearer of God. Right?
    posted by Sarah
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 12:50 pm
  15. I believe that communication between a man and his wife on this subject is very helpful in finding that definition of beauty and attractiveness. The idea of the wife letting herself go can be subjective to an extent. One man may like his wife's pony tail as another may enjoy the perfect hair sprayed look. The standards of the world can be brutal but they can be fought if the husband and wife communicate and stay attracted to each other by striving to please each other in physical appearance. And obviously all this being done through the lens of a biblical viewpoint on inner/outer beauty and what Song of Solomon has to offer on intimacy and being satisfied with each other.
    posted by Jen
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 12:57 pm
  16. I believe there is a difference between beauty and sexual. Our culture intermingles the two and we tend to buy into it. My husband told me not long ago, while having Drinking coffee, he said I looked "beautiful." I was shocked. I was sleepy, my short hair standing straight up, still in my sleep shirt. As I sipped my coffee he explained that my "morning messy look" was one of his favorite looks because there was an "innocent quality" about it. I am 47, and can't imagine what he is seeing...I am definetly not a morning person!

    And just this past weekend, we were riding our scooters on a very hot day and pulled over for lunch at a sandwich shop. I had really bad "helmet hair" and was very sweaty and out of no where my husband tells me " you are so beautiful." Again I am shocked, but happy and worried at the same time that he may be having a heat stroke.

    But seriously. What I think what he found "beautiful" was my contentment and happiness and eagerness to just be there with him. I do dress up and put on makeup but I have added ten pounds since we married and he about thirty.

    I am not thrilled with the aging and these spots that just show up and I could do without the constant reminders at the checkout counters of the cover girls (and I do mean GIRLS) but our culture is promoting sexuality, not BEAUTY. And when you really, really think about it....beauty is on BOTH inside and out, not sexuality. That is why sexuality can sell - because it is easy to market what you can see and can buy. Beauty is priceless and never-ending. AND it can't be bought because it is in the eye of the beholder!

    Just a thought...
    posted by Elizabeth
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 1:14 pm
  17. Im so very shocked that so many women seem to be offended by this topic. How about we take care of our bodies and ourselves because the Lord said to take care of the "temple"

    I think there are many reasons a person, man or woman, should present themselves in a clean and cared for manner. Dont we as mothers expect our children to get out of bed in the morning, get dressed in CLEAN clothes, and brush their hair and teeth? What example does it set for your child if the mother doesnt do the same? I dont think that people are implying that we should get up and go through a 2 hour beauty routine, but I do think it doesnt hurt anyone to do the basics.

    Im a stay at home mom and I know somedays its tempting to just stay in pjs all day, and I just got back from target and didnt put make-up on before I went, and do I feel guilty? Not one bit. Do I usually wear make-up? Yes, but Im ok if I dont also. And some of your husbands may prefer you without makeup! I think the thing is, like I saw another person post above, is ask your husband. If a 5 minute routine in the morning can improve your marriage, why WOULDNT you want to do it? Men are visual creatures, whether we understand it or like it, but God made them that way so Im not questioning it. I believe if there was something minor your husbands could do that would really make you happy, we would expect them to do it. If you want them to put a little more effort into their appearance ask them as well :)

    Ive also seen some people mention a lack of time, but I think most people have the time its just deciding what is important to them and doing it. I know that on the days I get up and it seems like I have a ton of things to do so I attack my list and just get the stuff done, it gets done rather quickly usually.

    I just think there should be moderation. I think we should all take care of ourselves, do the basics, not fret if we dont EVERY day, but as women we HAVE to take care of ourselves. If we dont we cant take care of our families as well, and thats just not right. Its not fair to us or them.
    posted by Dina
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 1:55 pm
  18. To my beloved sisters who think this is a base "unbiblical" conversation, let's just look for a second at what Paul says about marriage. He makes it clear that once we are married there is that "pulling" of pleasing our husbands and pleasing the Lord (I Corinthians 7:34) That is not a curse. Also, the Bible tells me to esteem all others (that includes my babe) as better than myself. So if something matters to him, it matters to me. That is the spirit of Christ-likeness. Lastly, I Cor 11 tells me that I am my hubby's crown and glory and was created for him. Please don't get it mixed up. I'm not "free" with lots of time on my hands or money. I am a homeschool mom of 4 kids (lost those stomach muscles long ago with all those c-sections!). I also do so much other stuff in a day that I won't bore you with the details. But because I love God and my hubby, I want to please them both. In this case we can balance pleasing both. I will NEVER be a runway model (nor do I wanna be), but my husband is thankful that I don't discount his feelings. Some of our husbands would be happy if we put forth good effort. That communicates respect for their desires. Beloved, let us love one another (I John 4:7).
    posted by Marjorie
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 1:59 pm
  19. So here's a related issue that is worthy of more thought. In the past few decades, we’ve witnessed great strides in equality for women. But progress hasn’t come without cost. There have been significant losses in the gender battle and far too little attention has been given to them.

    The biggest loss appears to be a widespread confusion about the distinctions between men and women—especially in marriage and family. Cultural emphasis on equality has hurt us if it has diminished proper understandings of the reality and purpose of distinctive manhood and womanhood. Renewed understanding of the beauty of male and female distinction might be one of our greatest cultural needs. But among some, there seems to be a fear that emphasis on distinction could threaten to reverse the gains. This fear is both unnecessary and possibly even harmful.

    Culture and society suffer when distinctions between men and women are not understood and respected. Many of the challenges in marriage, for example, are a direct result of these differences. We cannot pretend that such distinctions do not exist or do not matter. Men and women are different and these differences can either serve good purposes or become sources of alienation and disunity.

    I believe that the loss of a clear vision for the dignity and beauty of distinctive womanhood has produced confusion in the hearts of many women. They have become inarticulate concerning what they intuitively know about themselves. Worse yet, men do not sufficiently exalt them for their distinctive glory as women.
    www.thinkpoint.wordpress.com
    posted by Steve Cornell
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 2:15 pm
  20. Why do women find it painful that they cannot meet their perfectionistic ideal of beauty? Because of pride.

    Why is it necessary to defend the desire for beauty in the human face and form, when beauty is unquestionably a valuable trait in nature and artwork? Because of deceit.

    Why are women who temporarily "let themselves go" for the sake of more urgent priorities treated as though they do not care how they look? Because of a lack of compassion.
    posted by Sharon Rose
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 2:15 pm
  21. Ladies if you dont try to look good for your husbands, there are plenty of women out there who will. It's not right but its the way of the society that we live in.
    posted by rr
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 3:01 pm
  22. "Human sexuality is a parable—a testimony to the character of God and to His spectacular plan of redemption through Jesus. This spiritual truth is so magnificent that God chose to put it on display permanently. Everywhere. Men were created to reflect the strength, love, and self-sacrifice of Christ. Women were created to reflect the grace and beauty of the Bride He redeemed."

    This is a wonderful perspective Mary. As a 28yr old woman I am in the middle of this. No longer a young girl but not yet seasoned....So I begin to see the curve of my body change the elasticity in my skin give way and so forth and so on but what I have noticed is that there are two extremes our enemy has provided for women. Either there is too much emphasis on beauty or no enough and this can be inner beauty and outer beauty. This is another way for women to rebel so to speak against our husbands and the word of God. We are definately at a cross roads and being a single woman it is extremely hard because there is so much attention being paid to my outer beauty that the inner beauty gets looked passed. God does everything perfect...we were created in his image. Sin entered the world and man died....spiritually and physically we immediately began to die once we were born. I believe Eve and Adam were the most beautiful creatures God ever created...this world has never seen such beauty...physically and spiritually. But one day we will be just like him, and with him once again in perfect beauty!!
    posted by Brooke
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 3:02 pm
  23. Easy to say 'but what about men' or 'what about spiritual beauty', both more important and legit questions but both dodge this one (which could be nuanced b/c 'letting herself go' insinuates a purposeful decision as opposed to challenged b/c of busyness). To me it's about love. If a wife loves her husband she will want to please him, even if he is a jerk, because that's the love of Christ that we are called to - love your enemies and do good to them. Of course this is framed in the context of what the husband is asking for (which could be a sinful request), but as a general rule love gives. You could say 'what about the man pleasing the woman, and doing what she would like best'. But love doesn't speak that way. Which also leads into the man leading and the woman submitting. (Oh no, I used that word that's in the Bible!)

    I would contend that love would compel women (and men) to keep up a reasonable appearance to the world as well, within their means, again b/c of love. Purposefully unkempt, dirty, stinky people draw attention to themselves in a negative way which reflects on Christ for those who claim to be following him. This is a cultural matter, here in the US most Christians have the means to keep up a minimally acceptable cultural appearance (modesty withstanding) not in order that people may approve of them rather that they don't distract from good works and the gospel. something else to chew on...
    posted by John
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 3:04 pm
  24. WOW Mary! You are good at what you do! God has really gifted you with the ability to take His beautiful Truth and help His people understand it better.

    THANK YOU for this post. very timely for me personally.
    posted by Stephanie
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 3:05 pm
  25. Why not just take care of yourself because YOU are priceless? Your body is God's temple. I don't understand why most of the focus is on attractively displaying yourself toward men. It rather seems like we're too geared toward pleasing others when instead it should be about pleasing God.

    You feel better when you take care of yourself. You're more confident & more satisfied. Do it because YOU matter & because YOU have something to offer the world. Your beauty, your grace, your joy, your love - all gifts from God.

    Why wouldn't you want to polish up the tool you have to share those gifts with others, aka your body?

    Thanks for the post & the discussion. It's been interesting.
    posted by Cortney
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 3:10 pm
  26. I couldn't agree more with Dina. Definitions of "letting yourself go" are obviously subjective. When I think of that statement I think of a woman that is dis shelved in whatever it is that she is wearing. Disorder is not a good thing. Our home is disordered at times and it is proof that things are not as they should be around here. My husband gives grace in times like this, but it should not be our norm. My sweet, godly husband HATES stretchy yoga type pants. I didn't agree with him in this matter at first in our marriage so I kept them around. By God's grace I have grown over the 8 years of our marriage and to honor my husband I got rid of the few pair of those type pants that I had. There are some husbands who may LOVE their wives in that style of pants. But mine does not. It's just as easy for me to put on a pair of nicer looking shorts or capris.

    This whole issue comes down to the heart. Do we honor our husbands in the way we dress. I know in my heart when my unkempt physical appearance (or the shape of our home for that matter) is from laziness or if their is a good reason. I appreciate my husband's grace when I need it (especially as a mom of two small children), I don't want to take advantage of that though. This blog entry has been a good reminder of that.

    Our husbands see lots of different types of people during his day. I think it is indeed a matter of biblical principle that we strive to be attractive for them. The definition of "attractive" looks different for each couple. For some it may just be that they change their shirt just before their husband comes home so not to smell like baby spit up :) As the baby grows out of that though...the bar should probably rise a little. It takes me 10 min. to fix my hair in the morning, it's a step I neglect several days of the week. I look and feel more put together when I take this extra 10 min. I will have to work on that! '

    P.S. I reposted several of Mary's articles on modesty and I took a little heat too! :) It did not deter me from reposting though, we need to share biblical truth.
    posted by Kristina
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 6:10 pm
  27. In my honest opinion, the discussion here has been a speck uncomfortable, if not bordering on hostile. I love my Sisters, that's the bottom line really so I hope more lovely things are said to balance things out. It has been dramatic for sure.

    Yes, take care of yourself, God asks us to. And, sure, discuss with your husband what he likes best... he probably asks you about his appearance as well, to see if you like how he's looking :c) . Outside of that, there's not much left to be said. Let the world go the way it goes. Love them, don't be them. If you plaster on the spray and make up, so be it, as long as you've put your effort first (those 30 to 60 minutes might be really valuable to those with little time) into your love of Christ (in the word, in encouraging your 'brethren', in prayer etc.). Some of us girls look pretty ridiculous in make up, trust me I know. When I do try it, I have to go with VERY little otherwise, boy oh, weirdness!! This is probably for the best, that stuff is a huge money pit... and I have tendency to go overboard, collecting 'sweet, harmless, helpful things'... like really great pens, notepads, purses, wonderful smelling natural soaps (most of which I end up sharing as soon as the opportunity arises). The sprays and great smelling shampoos usually make me sick (maybe an allergy thing?) and my husband doesn't normally like me 'smelling like someone else' <his words. It seems to freak him out a little.

    I haven't anything 'real' to add, just that: Elizabeth you're hilarious! Heat stroke?!!! Outrageously, funny comment. Thanks for your endearing and gentle comments for both sides of the discussion.

    Dina, I also loved your gentle statement. I say this only so you know, this Sister found your words both godly and valuable.

    My last thoughts:

    Magnify Him. Ask Him for perspective and be wise, as it says in Proverbs, be glad to be rebuked IF it turns you from displeasing God, to bringing your paths into His ways. Look into the word for yourselves to see if it's 'really' one or the other... maybe as some have suggested it's a nice friendly blend of both.

    Peace, love n' blessings,
    posted by Jenny
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 7:08 pm
  28. Seriously?

    Beauty is good. But "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes" - 1 Peter 3:3; and 1 Timothy 2:9 says much the same thing.

    I don't take this to mean that, in our culture, it is wrong do to those specific things. I take it to mean that, in any culture, it is wrong to focus "too much" - whatever that means - on adorning our bodies to look beautiful.

    We do people a disservice by pressuring them to spend large quantities of time and grief each week agonizing and competing over what clothes to buy or how to do their hair.

    We do people a disservice by defining beauty too narrowly, as being "well-put together" or "young-looking" or "sexually attractive."

    And we most certainly do people a disservice by having double standards for men and women, in both of whose image the beauty of God is reflected.
    posted by Julia K
    on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 11:28 pm
  29. Oh dear...I didn't intend to write a novel but I guess that's what happened. Thanks to all you lovely, brave, and patient people who make it to the bottom. :)

    I agree; beauty is definitely a good thing...but the question is, what does “beautiful” mean? Scripture provides much insight into this--

    "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." - 1 Samuel 16:7

    "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment...Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit...For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful." - 1 Peter 3:3-5

    "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." - Proverbs 31:30

    "I also want women to dress modestly...not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God." - 1 Timothy 2:9-10

    “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” – Colossians 3:12

    Scripture makes it clear that true beauty comes from our within. Period.

    However, there is still the question, what should we wear?

    Well, you can’t really give a one-size-fits-all answer. Everyone has different circumstances. What about the homeless woman who recently came to the Lord but has no money to spend on her appearance? The missionary woman who spends her life “down and dirty,” helping those in need? The busy woman who is so in love with Christ that she would rather spend her precious free time with Him than doing her hair?

    Because it is such a gray-area type of issue, we must focus less on the issue itself and more on our hearts. We should focus first and foremost on our relationship with Christ, on loving people, and on cultivating inner beauty and the fruits of the Spirit. That is what’s truly important; as the references above say, the Lord looks at the heart, not outward appearance.

    Now if loving others (perhaps a husband) and following the Spirit’s leading, for you, includes taking a little extra time on your appearance, so be it. If for you it includes letting appearance take a backseat to more important things, so be it.

    Wear whatever is available and suitable for the work the Lord has laid on your heart; even if it’s not perfect, you’ll be just fine. It will look different for every person based on what He’s calling them to, so rather than figuring out how everyone should dress, let’s encourage everyone to simply follow Him in their lives. :)
    posted by Dee
    on Wednesday, June 8, 2011 at 12:20 am
  30. I have been following the discussion via The Gospel Coalition website. I am 56 years old and from my early teens I have been ogled by males and have been made to feel my only worth was as a sex toy for some male. Even if there are men out there who feel they have a grievance, under the cultural circumstances maybe it would be better if they dealt with their complaint in other than a demanding and entitled way. Just a suggestion, instead of hammering on the love of your life (?) why don't YOU be the kind of man she would want to please. Want to be the head, leader, the grand pupa, set the example of self-sacrificing love. Let's see some leadership in that.
    posted by phil
    on Wednesday, June 8, 2011 at 8:42 am
  31. Dee, I'm glad I made it to the bottom of the comments because you said exactly what was on my heart and I agree wholeheartedly that our focus should be on our Lord and what He is doing in our lives. I am striving for that "quiet and gentle spirit" that the Lord wants me to have. I do not want to judge someone else's heart based on how they are dressed. I have seen the faces of women whose dress would be considered dumpy light up when they worship the Lord and I have been blessed by them! And for those who are more immodest in their dress, perhaps they need someone to come alongside them and befriend them in order to encourage them to a more godly lifestyle. I see a big disconnect in the church today - godly living in response to a holy God seems to be missing. So I am asking the Lord to show me how I can help younger women understand the calling to holy living.
    posted by Denise
    on Wednesday, June 8, 2011 at 10:04 am
  32. I just wonder if this is a topic that the church is really supposed to be weighing in on? Some husbands prefer their wives to not wear makeup, and like ponytails, or shorter hair (yes, they are out there, I'm married to one of them!!) I wonder if discussions such as these put undue pressure on women (especially those who are younger in their marriages perhaps) to adorn themselves in ways to please other men or fit in with other women in the church instead of living to honor and please their husband.
    http://icaskey.wordpress.com
    posted by Adina
    on Wednesday, June 8, 2011 at 4:02 pm
  33. The Bible is very clear on this topic, I believe, and can be summed up well with 1 Cor 7:4 "For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does." This means we ask our husband what he would like us to do with our bodies and do our best to get there. And also, as per this passage, we have the freedom to direct his personal "beautifying." There was a woman above who thought Mary's article was useless and unbiblical and said what it really comes down to is "respecting yourself." Really? Where is that in the Bible? I think that's an incredibly selfish thought if you are in a marriage. In marriage, your body belongs to your husband, dear lady. It is not yours.
    posted by Kristin
    on Wednesday, June 8, 2011 at 4:22 pm
  34. Thank you for this article, Mary. My husband and I have been married 30 years and I'm GLAD he still finds me attractive. I work at keeping my body in shape and trying to eat right. I believe it's biblical to take care of myself. We've had many discussions about why it seems to be that many women get married and then stop caring about their appearance. Just go to the mall and observe how many very overweight people there are. I find it interesting that some of the comments are defensive and want to point the finger at the man. Why do we do that? Why can't we just take constructive advice and apply it to ourselves? I believe that it blesses my husband when I take a few minutes to care for my appearance before he comes home in the evening. He does not expect me to go "all out", but if my shirt has the days work on it, I put on a fresh one. I make sure my hair it tidy and add a little color to my face. I WANT my husband to desire me and men are visual creatures. I wonder if women let themselves go as a means of controlling the relationship. I completely agree that how I care about the outside of myself reflects what's in my heart. If my goal is to glorify Christ in all I do, it will include my physical appearance. Thank you again, Mary.
    posted by Margaret
    on Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 2:44 pm
  35. It's kind of funny how you would think it biblical to wear makeup, etc. to beautify yourself. In our church, we were taught that it was a sin (although they are getting away from that more and more as the young girls/woman want to look more like their worldly counterparts). God created us to be beautiful as we are. Painting our faces, dying our hair, etc. meant that we weren't happy with how God created us and we thought we could do better.
    Isaiah 3 starting with verse 16 (and down to the end of the chapter) begins:
    16Moreover the LORD saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet: 17Therefore the LORD will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will discover their secret parts.

    One would think from this that it would be more Biblical to avoid a lot of outward, fake, beautification. We were taught that we should be clean, modestly and neatly dressed, hair combed, and faces scrubbed clean. That was how a Christian woman should take care of themselves.
    posted by Susan
    on Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 7:21 pm
  36. The issue I take with this topic is that it takes a completely shallow glance at a behavior and points to it as though it should be one's primary concern. If a woman or man for that matter is "letting themself go" (which I will define as lacking hygiene/health, so that would include lack of exercise and hygiene less than culturally accepted norms) then I think to truly understand the heart issues must be brought to light. For instance one of the "symptoms" of someone who is suffering from depression/hopelessness is lack of health and hygiene. So I think it is moralism to tell a woman or man to shape up their appearance when their heart is suffering and in need of the gospel
    posted by Whitney
    on Friday, June 10, 2011 at 8:48 am
  37. A woman should take good care of herself by eating healthy, exercising, reducing stress, taking time to unwind and have fun, and taking care of her body. Every woman is beautiful, but society or world teaches us to wear revealing clothes, makeup, nice shoes, jewelry, have different creams to combat aging, and more. A woman should take care of herself and love herself for who God made her to be. Don't try to conform to society or world's standards because you will never be happy with yourself and finding yourself spending money and time to pleasing others or to be complimented. Remember God made every woman beautiful. We are not clones, but unique. God is saying every woman is beautiful. Beauty is within and that helps to radiate the outward through a healthy lifestyle and smile. God is giving one of the greatest compliments saying he made every woman beautiful. This is coming from the Most Handsome and Loving Gentleman which is God.
    posted by Godsgirl
    on Sunday, June 12, 2011 at 10:03 pm
  38. I loved the article, I appreciate encouragement that is godly, regarding every issue. And appearance is an issue. This is not about attaining to an impossible standard of "beauty". This is about doing the most with what you have to work with. I have struggled in this area quite a bit, because I am a woman who has to work hard to keep my weight where it is. I also don't like to wear make-up every day, or fix my hair, because there does not seem to be time. However, I am trying to change. Marriage is the most important earthly relationship, and God created marriage, so I want to do my best in ALL ways to strengthen my marriage.
    posted by Sarah
    on Tuesday, June 14, 2011 at 3:15 pm

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